Research Article| Volume 352, ISSUE 1-2, P58-61, May 15, 2015

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“Non-classical” paraneoplastic neurological syndromes associated with well-characterized antineuronal antibodies as compared to “classical” syndromes — More frequent than expected

Published:March 24, 2015DOI:


      • “Non-classical” PNSs are more frequent than reported in the literature.
      • “Non-classical” PNSs more frequently present as peripheral neurological syndromes.
      • Diagnosis of “non-classical” PNS is more difficult than of “classical” syndromes.
      • PNS manifestation usually precedes tumor detection.
      • PNS diagnosis allows detecting tumors at an early stage.



      Paraneoplastic neurological syndromes (PNSs) are rare disorders in association with cancer and sub-divided into “classical” and “non-classical” syndromes according to a 2004 consensus paper proposed by a panel of PNS experts. “Classical” PNSs are regarded to account for the vast majority of cases. However, systematic reports on clinical PNS manifestations are rare. Therefore, we analyzed the spectrum of PNS in our clinic.


      We retrospectively investigated medical records from consecutive patients diagnosed with definite PNS and serological evidence of well-characterized onconeural antibodies (anti-Hu, Yo, Ri, CV2/CRMP5, Ma1, Ma2, and amphiphysin) analyzed between 1991 and 2014 in our clinic.


      Of the 50 patients identified with onconeural antibody-positive PNS, 28 patients (56.0%) had “classical” PNS, and 22 (44.0%) “non-classical” PNS. Subacute cerebellar degeneration was the most frequent “classical” syndrome, brainstem encephalitis and subacute sensorimotor neuronopathy the most frequent “non-classical” syndromes. Anti-Hu antibodies were most frequent in both groups. 86.1% of patients developed neurological symptoms before the cancer was known. No differences between “classical” and “non-classical” syndromes were detected with respect to age, tumor entities and median time to diagnosis. However, whereas most patients with “classical” syndromes were females, there was no gender predominance in patients with “non-classical” PNS and the latter had significantly more frequent peripheral neurological syndromes.


      The so-called “non-classical” PNSs in association with well-characterized onconeural antibodies were more common in our patient population than expected. Therefore, in neurological disorders of unclear etiology with a subacute onset and atypical presentation further diagnostic work-up including investigation of onconeural antibodies is necessary.


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